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Poem

Vénus Khoury-Ghata

FOR NOHA AL HEGELAN

At that time the earth was so high up
women hung out clouds and laundry on the same line
angels gripped their skirts to keep them from following stray souls

Everything that frequented water had a soul
clay jug, gourd, basin
buckets fished out the ones stagnating in the wells’ indifference

Every moving shadow sketched a phantom
every cock-crow became an omen
the announcer of births spoke louder than the waterfall
but more softly than the wind which had taken over the indoors and the outdoors
swelling the paltry fields
pushing back the horizon of an acre as soon as the houses shrank to the size of cages

The wise man tried not to cross its path
it would break a man for you over its knee like a straw

VOOR NOHA AL HEGELAN

Zo hoog was de aarde toentertijd
de vrouwen hingen was en wolken aan dezelfde lijn
engelen klampten zich aan hun rokken vast om te beletten
dat ze zouden meegaan met de verdwaalde zielen

Alles wat omging met water had een ziel
kruik kalebas teil
de emmers haalden de zielen op die verkommerden in onverschillige waterputten

Elke schim die bewoog was de schets van een geest
elk hanengekraai veranderde in een voorteken
de aankondiger van geboorten sprak luider dan de waterval
maar stiller dan de wind die heerste over binnen en buiten
en de arme velden verwijdde
en de horizon met een morgen terug drong wanneer de huizen krompen tot de grootte van kooien

De wijze vermeed de weg van de wind
die een man op zijn knie kon breken als een strohalm

Si haute était la terre en ce temps-là
les femmes suspendaient linge et nuages à la meme corde
des anges s’accrochaient à leurs jupes pour les empecher de suivre les âmes égarées

Tout ce qui faisait commerce avec l’eau avait une âme
jarre calebasse bassine
les seaux repechaient celles qui végétaient dans l’indifférence des puits

Toute ombre mouvante était esquisse de revenant
tout chant de coq se transformait en présage
l’annonceur des naissances parlait plus haut que la cascade
mais plus bas que le vent qui avait mainmise sur le dedans et le dehors
dilatant les champs pauvres
repoussant l’horizon d’un arpent lorsque les maisons s’étrécissaient aux dimensions des cages

Le sage évitait de croiser son chemin
il vous cassait un homme sur son genou comme une paille
Poems
Poems of Vénus Khoury-Ghata
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FOR NOHA AL HEGELAN

At that time the earth was so high up
women hung out clouds and laundry on the same line
angels gripped their skirts to keep them from following stray souls

Everything that frequented water had a soul
clay jug, gourd, basin
buckets fished out the ones stagnating in the wells’ indifference

Every moving shadow sketched a phantom
every cock-crow became an omen
the announcer of births spoke louder than the waterfall
but more softly than the wind which had taken over the indoors and the outdoors
swelling the paltry fields
pushing back the horizon of an acre as soon as the houses shrank to the size of cages

The wise man tried not to cross its path
it would break a man for you over its knee like a straw

FOR NOHA AL HEGELAN

At that time the earth was so high up
women hung out clouds and laundry on the same line
angels gripped their skirts to keep them from following stray souls

Everything that frequented water had a soul
clay jug, gourd, basin
buckets fished out the ones stagnating in the wells’ indifference

Every moving shadow sketched a phantom
every cock-crow became an omen
the announcer of births spoke louder than the waterfall
but more softly than the wind which had taken over the indoors and the outdoors
swelling the paltry fields
pushing back the horizon of an acre as soon as the houses shrank to the size of cages

The wise man tried not to cross its path
it would break a man for you over its knee like a straw
Sponsors
Gemeente Rotterdam
Nederlands Letterenfonds
Stichting Van Beuningen Peterich-fonds
Ludo Pieters Gastschrijver Fonds
Hendrik Muller fonds
Lira fonds
J.E. Jurriaanse
Literature Translation Institute of Korea
Partners
LantarenVenster – Verhalenhuis Belvédère